Nigel Foster Legend vs. Valley Nordkapp?

This is somewhat of a follow up to some previous posts I have made about boats (comparing the Nordkapp, Greenlander Pro and Bahiya).

I was wondering if anyone can provide some feedback on the Nigel Foster Legend and perhaps compare it to the Valley Nordkapp. Granted these boats are different in that the Nordkapp is very soft chined and the Legend is hard chined…and one has a lot of rocker while the other does not; however, they are both similar in that they are relatively fast sea kayaks that are pretty maneuverable for their length, known for good rough water performance and have a fairly loose stability profile (low primary stability / easily edged).

I am specifically interested in how the boats compare in terms of speed, maneuverability, performance in rough water/wind, and surfing ability. I already know that the Nordkapp is good in all these areas, but I am somewhat fond of hard chined boats and curious how the Legend performs compared to the Nordkapp.

I currently have a Nordkapp H2O and am considering taking a look at adding a Legend to my fleet, but have not been able to test paddle one yet so am interested to hear the feedback of others.


Paddled a Legend…
and at the time compared it to a Kajaksport Millenium. I wound up buying the Millenium after spending a long weekend in the Florida Keys going back and forth. These are all fast, seaworthy, sophisticated boats for expert paddlers. I found the Legend to be more than somewhat tender and I felt like it required too much bracing. But, I weigh over 200 lbs. and in a boat with little or no load, stability is not great. A loaded boat would be easier to control. My friend whose Legend it was, really, really liked his and could make it sing. He liked the Millenium, too, but prefered the Legend. He is the more skilled paddler too. In my opinion this underscores the need to try the boats yourself and form your own conclusions about which one works best for you.

I certainly agree that paddling the boat is essential, but still like to hear other’s input. I would contend that just test paddling it is not enough though, as it does not expose you to the vast amount of potential conditions and circumstances that another paddler may have experienced with the boat, which is one of the reasons that I ask the question. For instance, with the Greenlander Pro (which I really do like for the most part) I find that the bow pearls when on steep waves, that it tends to weathercock a bit when paddled across a strong wind, that the boat tends to get pushed around a lot in beams seas and that it can be a bit squirrelly in a following sea. All those are things I never would have discovered on most normal test paddles and all are traits that I think that most paddlers could agree on.

Also believe there are some generalities about boats that tend to hold true and that are a matter of preference as to what traits you prefer. Like when comparing a Nordkapp to an Explorer, most people will tell you the same things…the Nordkapp is faster, more tender and generally very “transparent” to beams seas / doesn’t get pushed around a lot, and that it tends to require the attention of the paddler. The Explorer is slower, more steady and easier to perform rescues, etc, a lot more forgiving, etc. But both are great boats and one is not necessarily better than the other. Just take your pick of which set of characteristics you want.

That is the basis of my question–not necessarily asking which boat is better, but just curious to hear others’ opinions about how they compare.

I do appreciate your comment though.

I should add that I am about 200 pounds.

Come along for the ride
I’ve only demoed Nordkapps a couple times, so I can’t offer much comparison-wise. I think they’re probably different enough that switching between the two would give you an excitingly different ride each time, which for me is a big part of the fun of switching between kayaks. I find the secondary strong enough in the Legend to make it pretty easy to settle into in rough water. I find it a lot of fun, and directionally well-mannered once you get the knack of edging a bit in anticipation, vs. edging a bit on the wrong edge at the wrong time. If you like the feel of hard-chined boats and can get over the loose primary stability by feeling confident in the secondary, I think it’s hard to go wrong. I’m not a racer. I enjoy the ocassional race, but I’ve never really gotten serious about racing technique, race specific training and equipment, and becoming truly competitive at it. I did manage a 6 mile race in a few minutes under an hour in the Legend. That said a lot to me about it’s efficiency. It’s not a Romany, Delphin, or Whiskey 16 in the surf zone, but I think those compromises would take away a lot of what makes the Legend great. It’s got enough volume in the bow and enough maneuverability to make it quite respectable and fun in those activities, for me anyway. This video of me in the Legend this summer can at least give you a look at it in some type of wave action.

They are very different boats
The Legend is much higher volume than the Nordkapp, which is more comparable to the N.F. Silhouette. N.F. boats all tend to have low initial stability and not a lot of secondary; that’s the way Nigel likes his boats to be.

The stability of the Nordkapp is entirely dependent on the seat height. The stock seat in some variations is as much as 1.5" above the hull, which is great for maneuvering a loaded boat, but really compromises the stability when the boat is unladen. Lowering the seat down to the hull makes a dramatic difference in the stability of a Nordkapp and it becomes very easy to handle. In waves, it feels like an oversize Pintail. Unfortunately, that typically means cutting out the stock seat and reinstalling or replacing it. Ideally, it should have adjustable seat height that the paddler can change based on the load being carried and personal preference.

seat height
Great points on the seat height. Mine currently has a foam seat. For one, I need the foam seat in order to get low enough in the boat for it to fit. I find the Nordkapp to be a snug fitting boat and it is too snug for me with a higher seat.

Changing the seat height, and changing the snugness of the hip pads has completely changed the stability of the boat for me–more than with other boats. Primarily I find that it significantly alters the secondary stability of the boat (vice the primary stability). With the right seat height and boat fit I find the Nordkapp has great secondary stability, and with a lousy fit the boat seems to have no distinguishable line between primary and secondary, which I am not fond of.

As to fit, that is one big variable for me with the Legend I think. I paddled a friend’s Legend many years ago and remember it being a very loose fit with a high deck. I remember feeling like I was going to fall out when i rolled it. I will have to see when I finally get to test paddle one again. Maybe that was just a matter of perspective since I was paddling a fairly snug boat at the time that was probably too tight for me.

As to performance in the surf zone versus the Romany and shorter boats…sometimes a long boat can be nice in the surf zone too since it makes it easier to catch some waves, and sometimes can do better at avoiding broaching. Plus I am on the heavy side for a lot of the cool short boats so I no longer own one at this time (used to have a Romany and Avocet a long time ago)

Legend vs Nordcapp
What makes the Legend a good boat is a good paddler like Nigel.

Both boats are demanding of skills. For me: the Nord sits deeper in the water with more rocker and a bit shorter. The Legend has less rocker, higher volume and longer and for my weight of 185, it seems to teeter on the V hull where the Nord sits more solidly - but both have low initial. So in rough water? If your skills are good you can paddle anything in rough water. I like the Nord a bit more because it doesn’t teeter back and forth on the v hull. I never like that with hard chine boats and it’s caused by not having enough weight in it or if its a long boat, it’s just doesn’t sink deep enough. But that’s what gives you the speed. So that’s the trade. I have never really surfed either of them.

Years back before NDK, Nord was the guy and good paddlers flocked to it because it had low initial and was supposed to be the top of the fleet for Valley. I paddled with loads of paddlers over the years and we all paddled in the same conditions regardless of the boat.

I paddled a newer Nord last year and I liked it but not sure If the low initial is a good enough trade for any other aspects. My experiences with the Legend is over 10 years ago. It kept getting resold and some of those owners ended up with Explorers. Sometimes a lounge chair feels good.

shape between chines unique for Foster’s
I think the fairly unique shape between the hard chines makes Nigel Foster’s kayaks different. My Caribou is v’d between the chines. My Bahia is more deeply v’d between the chines. I think every other kayak I have, hard or soft chined, has a v along the waterline at least at the ends. My Legend is not V’d. It is rounded between the chines along the entire waterline. I think this gives it the distinctively loose primary stability, but also contributes to its speed and efficiency, and probably maneuverability. But I actually find the secondary stability quite good and reassuring in the Legend.

I suppose I could describe it this way. Adroit rough water handling requires loose hips, and pretty much a developed disregard towards primary stability. At some point, primary stability honestly failed to register in my mind while on the water the way it used to. I’ve learned that to handle rough water well, I can’t be stiffing up and trying to control the slight degrees of heel that represent primary stability. You have to learn to roll with the little things, and then be more deliberate in your edging when necessary. You shouldn’t get that uneasy, off-balance feeling until you’ve ventured into the limits of your secondary stability. You can’t aquire this in a long demo.

The Legend doesn’t give you much in the way of primary stability. So someone who relies on it won’t get comfortable. Someone who doesn’t rely on it, but is just used to it, will take a few outings to forget about it. But someone who relies on primary to feel comfortable is treading a fine line in rough water. They are usually the ones unable to control their edges and getting flipped by waves more often. So I think a kayak like the Legend can be valuable as far as weaning someone off primary stability reliance, and getting them away from strong and/or nervous reactions to every slight heel of the kayak.

The P&H Sirius did that for me. The Sirius was the first kayak I bought where I wondered after the fact if I bit off more than I could chew. I wondered if I could ever get comfortable in it. I learned a great deal from that kayak, a great deal about what I now consider basics for rougher water paddling. I would say the primary is still fairly loose in the Sirius, but not as loose as the Legend. But the Legend’s secondary gives me something to lean against, fairly forgiving, where the Sirius doesn’t to nearly the same degree. I don’t just flip quickly over in the Sirius, secondary stability is there. But I can’t go momentarily off balance and feel like the secondary really propped me up, and I do get that feeling from the Legend. Of course the Sirius is a tracker compared to the Legend, it’s lower volume, and I don’t feel waves acting on it, much like you described the Nordkapp above. The Legend may be a little edgier in that regard, but I don’t think to the point of being a weakness. It’s just a little more volume, and doesn’t have the typical V between the chines anywhere along the waterline. I find it a unique and very capable ride. But it certainly isn’t every paddlers choice of kayak.

As far as getting nice long rides in front of waves, I agree with you that maneuverability isn’t so important. I remember a number of years ago one of my early times in the surf zone with the Legend. I paddled out from the beach alongside an Explorer, hearing some of the typical talk from Nigel Dennis Kayak fans of what capable surf kayaks the Explorer and Romany are, and I’m certainly not going to argue that. Now a lot of it can be the paddler, but when we were done, there certainly was a lot of interest in that other Nigel’s kayak that I was paddling.

Now that I think about it, I had another day paddling with a different Explorer kayak alongside my Legend in some pretty active seas outside of Bogue Inlet. Again, maybe the paddler, although he did seem quite capable or he wouldn’t have managed it out there, but we turned around at the mile buoy. I remember smiling and asking him “Are we ready?”. It seemed like lickety split, I took off on the first couple waves that hit me, and had to turn around and paddle a long way back to him before doing it again.

I’ve also used it to paddle back and forth in and out of surf to collect people who were capsized and washed back to shore to help coach them out through a tough breaking inlet. I’m not a coach, I was just a fellow paddler.

All this to say that you don’t have to be all that and a bag of chips to appreciate a Legend. There are a lot better paddlers than myself out there. I think it takes better care of a person than someone might initially think when taking it for a demo. I guess it just never struck me as being overly challenging. But there’s always a lot of personal preference tied into it. Whatever trips your trigger, right?

Agreed in many ways… I too have owned a Bahiya and a Greenlander Pro. Both are hard chined, but with V bottoms. The Foster boats are unique in that they have hard chines and ROUND bottoms.

The feeling though is as described above–a boat that likes to sit on its edge perhaps more than sit upright, and has low initial stability. That is what I am interested in, and why I ask about the Legend versus the Nordkapp. Both are round bottomed, fairly “tippy” boats that are fast, and easily edged, often preferring to be paddled on edge rather than upright. I like that feeling and it is one that a boat like the Explorer doesn’t really have. I am not after a lot of primary stability. I like a lower primary stability and good secondary stability personally.

And true that a good paddler can paddle any boat in rough water…but not every boat excels or is optimized for rough water. My question is posed from the perspective of an accomplished paddler looking for a high performance boat that excels in rough water with an accomplished paddler, and not from the perspective of a novice looking for a boat to boost confidence in rough conditions. I do also own an Explorer so if I ever felt like I needed a confidence boost in big conditions that would be the boat I would take out.

And of course…they’re all great boats–legend, nordkapp, explorer, etc. I am just curious how people compare the two boats in my post…and I love discussing boats as do some others here.

Good posts…

– Last Updated: Jan-04-13 4:02 PM EST –

I paddle a Shadow, which is the big brother to the Legend. I agree with Capefear about the shape of the bottom, it's mostly flat, except it has a little roundness to it, with no v and tons of secondary stability. The person I bought my Shadow from let me have an extended demo of a week with the boat, otherwise I might not have appreciated it so much. It was when I was paddling around in some small choppy waves, and checking out the edges and I thought I was going to get knocked over, and I was mentally preparing to roll, when I found myself being supported by this solid edge, heeled much further over than any other boat I have paddled. Lots of secondary stability. It takes a day or two of paddling the Shadow to get used to its loose feeling, it seems to pick up on every little piece of energy in the water and want to exploit it, and you need loose hips to kinda accept whats going on under you. But once you learn to work with the boat, it seems to fly. Running downwind it doesn't have the strongest tracking, the skeg doesn't deploy that deeply, but if you stay tuned in to what the boat is doing, you can keep it running downwind\downwave pretty well with just small directional strokes. Tons of volume in the bow so it surfs very well, the plumb bow seems to resist pearling, and the hard chines and solid secondary work great to keep it headed the direction you want. The hard chines can seemingly trip you up a bit in the beginning while surfing, until you really learn to anticipate what the boat wants to do, and using the edges well with a little bracing goes a long way to keeping the boat upright. It's a long boat (17'10") that can carry a lot of gear, travel pretty quickly, teach you how to use your edges well, and surf fairly well, but it might challenge you a little in the beginning. My Shadow now feels tame compared to my surf kayak with its big flat bottom and rails, but I learned a lot paddling the Shadow, and I'm going to keep it until something amazing in terms of a big gear hauler comes along.

I've never paddled a Nordkapp, but I'm probably too heavy (230lbs) to utilize one as a trip boat...

The Nordkapp hull shape…
…strikes a better balance between stability and rough water performance, IMO. The slight V provides just enough initial stability that you can relax when you paddle it, which can be a challenge in a Nigel Foster boat. That was one of the reasons that I ultimately sold my Silhouette, the lack of initial stability would catch me off-guard at times and I found it annoying.

The rounded chines of the Nordkapp just roll with the waves, making it an excellent rough water boat. I loved paddling it in beam waves, as all I had to do was keep my hips loose and trust the boat to do its thing. The design provides the advantages of some initial stability without sacrificing performance in waves. The only reason I sold mine is that it was the old “HM” model, which was a strong-tracking boat that was difficult to maneuver, even when edged hard.

I guess the best way to put it is that the Nordkapp feels like a higher performance version of most other touring boats, sort of a natural progression in stability and wave handling, whereas the Nigel Foster boats have a very specific feel that appeals to a more limited crowd. Nigel’s paddles are the same way. He designs his gear to suit his personal preferences and techniques, which is fine but it does limit their appeal. More than likely, you’ll either love or hate Nigel’s boat designs, as they are definitely an acquired taste.

One thing you can’t argue with is that Nigel is an exceptionally skilled boat handler and coach, not to mention a really fun guy. I’ve taken a couple of classes with him and his ability to maneuver a kayak is awe-inspiring. If his boats suit you, they’re an excellent choice.


– Last Updated: Jan-08-13 12:45 AM EST –

owned a rm nordkapp for about one season. I found it very stable/high secondary stability. I moves nicely in waves and is quite fast. The one thing i did not like was its tendency to lecock in strong winds. Its propably not a big deal for normal padling, but i just love to go out in wind. that might change and i could have experimented with mopving the seat forward. However since i have a pintail i just couldnt justify holding on tho the nordie. The pintail is awesome in wind, super nice in waves, much more manouvrable, surfs great. It will go strait on flat water with the skeg down. I wish perhaps the pintail would have ahad a bit more of the nordies DEEP stability: Pinny being a bit flatter under. My pinny is quite new 2010?diolen FG. Ive noticed its highly subjective how people feel about the nordies stability. I thought it was super easy, and on my first trial i padlled streight into some 30knots wind and just enjoyed the ride. Another guy i know sold his quickly since he forund it exremely nervous/unstable. Another friend who is really not a good paddler and has problems with waves and balance in general, found the nordkapp very easy to paddle, almost boring..It would have been nice to have a classic or somthing one day. Im not to fond of the 3layerplastic..for the time being ill get along with my rm zephyr and "spintail" and by the way. The "bahaya"? looks like an interresting boat. would love to hear more about it...

I find the Nordkapp to be pretty good in the wind, but I agree with a poster above about it being pretty low volume. That may be a deciding factor for me, as I find it to be a bit of a tight fit, and maybe tighter than I prefer. I really like the fit of my Explorer, and I find the Nordkapp to be a good bit snugger, which surprises me actually.

Also after reading some of the reviews above the Legend sounds a lot like the Greenlander Pro in that it gets kicked around a bit in rougher water until the strong secondary kicks in, which kicks in a bit later on the GP and apparently on the Legend as well. I do kind of like that feeling personally, just on the GP it feels like it gets kicked around a little too much given the steep slabby sides which seem “catchy” in beam seas.

Maybe the better comparison for me is to compare the GP and the Legend.

I wish I could have / keep them all. All are great boats.

I really do want to get out and try the Legend. I am curious how it would compare to the GP. I suspect it may be a blend of some of the characteristics of the GP and the Nordkapp given its hard chines like the GP and the round bottom like the Nordkapp.

I did paddle my Nordkapp and GP back to back a few times recently and found that to me the GP seems noticeably faster on flat water, but not as reassuring, smooth and predictable as the Nordkapp in steep wind waves where the Nordkapp is just a really sweet ride.